Speaking in Scottish parliament on the 30th international day for the elimination of violence against women, Labour MP Mercedes Villalba, welcomed the decision of Police Scotland to not renew its training contract with Sri Lanka but maintained that this came about " in spite of the inaction of the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans".
The decision to not renew the training contract comes after years of campaigning by human rights activists and Tamil victim communities who maintain that the training provided political cover for an abusive law enforcement agency. In making the announcement, Iain Livingstone, Chief Constable of Police Scotland, further stated that "there will be no further deployments of Police Scotland officers to Sri Lanka during the remainder of the agreed period, which ends in March 2022".
In her address to parliament, Villalba stressed that whilst the ostensible aim of Police Scotland's training was to tackle gender-based violence, "the unit’s activities in Sri Lanka failed to change the attitude and culture of gender-based violence that is rife in the country".
"A Sri Lankan police spokesperson was recently quoted as confirming that the force would not take cases of intimate partner violence to court, so it is no surprise that campaigners feared that Police Scotland’s work was providing political cover and legitimacy for the human rights violations, including gender-based violence, that occur in Sri Lanka" she noted.
Villalba criticised the Justice Secretary's willingness to turn a blind eye to these concerns and stated "there is no point in a justice secretary who does not stand up for human rights, yet that is exactly what we have in Keith Brown".
She further slammed Police Scotland's own failure to tackle gender-based violence within Scotland, noting that over "40 police officers and staff in Police Scotland are being prosecuted over offences that include sex crime, assaults and domestic abuse".
Referencing a report by Rape Crisis Scotland, Villalba emphasised that "systemic sexism that still exists in Police Scotland’s ranks".
"Given Police Scotland’s poor record, how could anyone argue that that unit was best placed to promote good practice internationally?" she asked.
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